Four men from London have been jailed for a total of 20 years after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) discovered they had stolen £4 million in VAT and laundered it through a number of bank accounts – including that of a deceased colleague.

The group, headed up by Donald McLeod, of Middlesex, fraudulently manipulated the accounts of their haulage and heavy plant hire business to hide millions of pounds in customer VAT payments so they could siphon it off for their personal gain.

An investigation showed more than £16 million had passed through their company accounts between 2004 and 2012. During that time they had siphoned off £4 million in VAT payments, set up false business bank accounts and used a deceased associate’s account to launder the cash.

John Cooper, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:

“This criminal group thought they had developed the perfect plan to steal from the UK taxpayer and launder their profit without detection or having to face the consequences. They were wrong and are now paying the price.”

In September 2012 officers from HMRC arrested the four and searched 15 domestic and business premises across London and the south of England. Computers, mobile phones and business records were seized, along with £37,500 cash. Around 100 HMRC officers took part in the arrest and search operation.

The Middlesex and North London-based companies – DM Services, DJM Services Ltd, O’Connor Plant and Heavy Trans Ltd – which fronted the fraud carried out high-profile work including erecting the Christmas lights at Covent Garden and clearing waste from the London 2012 Olympics’ site.

All four were charged with Cheating the Public Revenue.

Confiscation proceedings are now underway to reclaim their criminal profits.